I wish that there were more schools like Drake University.
This school has less than 3,000 undergrads. Yet it has over 140 majors , about the same number as you might find at a large state school. I could find lots of students and parents to sign up for that. Many want a major that they would usually find at a large university. But they don’t want the large lecture classes or the large campus that come with it. As you see in the photo above, you can quickly walk from one of the Drake campus to the other. You might also notice that the Painted Sidewalk, saluting student organizations at Drake, is a major landmark. I also found a few more Drake photos on Pinterest.
Drake has a student/faculty ratio of 10 to 1. That’s about the same as some research universities that have more famous names, larger grad schools, and more selective admissions. Seventy percent of all classes taught at Drake University in 2018-19 had fewer than 30 students. While this school has several majors that require infamous “gatekeeper” courses such as introductions to Economics and Biology, only 25 classes had more than 100 students. Anne Kremer told me that Drake does not have the large lecture rooms that you will find at a Big Ten school. Nor does the university rely on grad students to be a primary instructor. Even your lab or recitation section is taught by a professor.
Unlike other schools of similar size, you can go right from a bachelors degree to an MBA, a law degree or a PharmD at Drake University. There are also preprofessional tracks into advanced professional degrees in Athletic Training and Occupational Therapy. It’s very hard for any college to expand its enrollment in the health fields. Yet Drake tripled the number of enrolled students from less than 50 in 2016 to over 150 three years later. The university also uses an advisory system that helps students to not only find the right major, but also complementary minors or second majors. Drake allows enough “double dipping” so that a single course might fill more than one degree, major or minor requirement.
About two-thirds of all applicants for the freshman class that arrived last fall were accepted. Their average GPA was a 3.7. Admissions are test optional, though SAT and ACT scores have been similar to freshmen who enter the University of Iowa. According to the university, Drake consistently graduates over 70 percent of a freshman class, though more than ten percent of the first-year students have left each year since 2014. Last year Drake welcomed 750 freshmen. This year there will be closer to 800.
Unlike much larger schools, 70 percent of Drake students live on campus. First-year residence hall assignments are based on your first-year seminar. Greek life is relatively important at Drake. Fraternities attract nearly 30 percent of the men. Sororities draw in nearly 30 percent of the women.
The university’s direct charges for this academic year were just over $57,000. Undergraduate tuition and fees are the same for all four years, if you enter as a freshmen. Scholarships help to make Drake price competitive with the non-resident charges at a Big Ten university such as Indiana, Iowa or Michigan State. The university awarded need-based scholarships to 70 percent of the freshmen in 2018-19, the latest year that data was available. Twenty-five percent of the class received merit scholarships. On average, those awards covered just over half of the tuition. You might not less pay less to go to Drake than you would to go to Home State U. But you might pay less than you would to go to Neighboring State U.
Founded in 1910, the Relays are the second-largest track and field event in the United States, after the NCAA Championships. The Relays attract hundreds of athletes each year from Iowa high school stars to Olympians. Olympians from the past who have competed in the Drake Relays include Bruce Jenner, Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, Jesse Owens and Wilma Rudolph. The Drake Beautiful Bulldog Contest, where English Bulldogs rock the runway, crowns a winner just before the Relays begin.
The Bulldogs compete in 18 sports, including football. Men’s basketball has been on the rebound at Drake. In 2019 the Bulldogs were Missouri Valley Conference champions. They finished last season with a 20-14 record. But as of this post, they are 21 and 2. Unfortunately, one of the losses was to Loyola-Chicago, which has cracked the Men’s Top 25 in the AP and Coaches Polls. The women’s basketball program has also been quite successful in recent years. Drake finished 27-7 in 2018-19 and the team was 22-8 before the pandemic ended the next season. Unfortunately, the women’s basketball team has faced many postponements and cancelled games for this season. Drake also plays in an odd conference for football where it has few regional rivalries. The Pioneer Football League has teams in the Midwest (Dayton, Butler, Morehead State, Valparaiso), South (Davidson, Jacksonville, Stetson), East (Marist) and West (U of San Diego). Valparaiso is the only school that is Drake’s rival in every sport.
The city has over 200,000 residents, and it is the fastest growing city in the Midwest. It’s fairly easy for Drake University students to get downtown from campus, a plus for anyone who wants to complete an internship or practicum during the school year. And, unlike other state capitals and major cities such as Austin, Boston, Columbus, Denver, Minneapolis, or even Richmond, Drake University students face less competition to get those positions. It did not surprise me that nearly of a third (12,000 of 39,000) of the Drake alumni registered in LinkedIn.com were based around Des Moines. There are also more than 4,400 Bulldogs in the Chicago area and over 2,800 in and around Minneapolis. Denver and Kansas City are each home to over 1,000 alumni.
Des Moines is the headquarters city for the Principal Financial Group, EMC Insurance Group, Fidelity & Guaranty Life, Allied Insurance, GuideOne Insurance, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa, and American Republic Insurance Company. It’s probably no surprise that Drake would be a good school to study Actuarial Science, Data Analytics or Finance. Legendary actor Jack Nicholson played a retired actuary who is succeeded by a Drake grad in the movie About Schmidt.
Iowa and New Hampshire are probably the only states where presidential candidates engage in grassroots campaigns among the voters. That’s a great preparation for careers in politics and communications. Des Moines is also a state capital 12 months a year. There should be plenty of opportunities to work for state government, interest groups, media, lobbyists, attorneys, legislators, courts and the governor’s office for Drake students who seek them.
Want to know more about me? Check out these podcasts!
Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community, hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!
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